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Businesses support improvement district
Some downtown Orland business and building owners expressed their general support for a proposed improvement district, but said a buy-in from all the merchants is needed.
"You can edict all you want," business and building owner Randy Fortner said, "but unless all the property owners are on board, the chances of success are greatly diminished."
Fortner agreed with interim City Manager Gail Wingard that it is time to do things that will enhance the ascetics and function of the "historic" downtown.
Wingard has proposed designating the square block of Fourth and Fifth streets, from Walker to Colusa streets, as an improvement district.
The idea is for the business and property owners to share with the city the cost of sprucing up the area with the hopes of attracting more people downtown.
Fortner said he and his wife, Lynn, do their best to keep their Fourth Street gift and florist store, Garnet Hill, looking good, along with his real estate office on Fifth Street.
But some businesses don't keep theirs up in the same way, Fortner said, because appearances are subjective.
And while Fortner does not think the improvement district is a bad idea, he believes it is just one element to improve the area.
He said it is essential that existing businesses focus on things big box stores don't do.
"We have to be smarter and more creative," Fortner said.
He also said the downtown needs more parking, a municipal lot near Bank of America and a stop light at Fourth and Walker would help pedestrian access.
Fortner also believes rezoning the residential section of Fourth Street across from Library Park to commercial would improve the business climate as well.
Homes could be converted to restaurants and antique shops, he said, with a perfect view of the park similar to the communities of Mount Shasta and Mendocino.
"I appreciate Mr. Wingard's efforts because he realizes visual improvements will probably enhance the prospects of more business," Chris Redes added.
Redes and her husband, Oscar, own Oscar's Signs and Sportswear on Fourth Street.
She said they've been in business a long time, and she tries to stay positive in order to enhance the community.
"It is a step in the right direction," she said. "It is not that he favors one district over the other by starting downtown; it is a stepping stone and building point to help the town grow overall."
She also said the more money spent here by people passing through — the more Orland's sales tax will be enhanced.
Christine Camacho of La Perla Tapatia grocery on Colusa Street also likes the idea.
"I think it will work if (the city) gives them the paint," Camacho said. "Otherwise, nobody will do it."
She and her husband, Jose Nunez, have been in business since 2003.
Camacho said she thinks the majority of the businesses in town are kept up and it is a nice city.
Wingard is also promoting window lighting as a means of attracting visitors after dark.
Camacho said she likes the lights around the windows of the businesses.
"They would really look nice if everybody got together and did it," she said.
However, she said many stores do not stay open late, so customers are forced to shop out of town.
Jan and Bob Walker own the former Hotel Orland Building at Fourth and Walker streets and the Farwood Bar and Grill building at Fifth and Walker.
"People do judge a book by its cover," said Jan Walker, so she too supports improving facades.
But Walker also points out that the area has grown considerably since she came here seven years ago.
Back then, Pizza Palace and the Orland Dry Cleaners were the only stores on Fifth, and now there are restaurants, bars and real estate offices, she said.
She also admits to owning the biggest eyesore on the street — the building next to Farwood Bar and Grill.
"The worst building in town is ours," Walker said.
She said they plan to tear it down and replace it with a patio for the restaurant, or expand it in the not too distant future.
Contact Rick Longley at 934-6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.